Merry Happy Valkyrie
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Scrooge, although others might; I don’t put up Christmas decorations, I don’t wear baubles for earrings, I don’t watch Christmas movies (ok, Alisa made me watch Christmas Chronicles, but IT STARS KURT RUSSELL so it doesn’t count).
I don’t deliberately go and read Christmas stories. But this is a Tansy story, and I’d heard it played with some jokes about Tasmania and weather, so I figured I’d give it a go.
(I guess I should say that both Tansy and the publisher are friends of mine… but if I didn’t like it, I just wouldn’t say anything….)
Lief is a weather reporter, and lives in Hobart, but her hometown is Matilda – where it always snows at Christmas. Now, for the non-Australians, this is hilarious. Australian weather is always a bit unpredictable, especially in Tasmania, but the idea of guaranteed snow in December is outrageous. It has been known to snow in the hills near Melbourne, for instance, on Christmas Day… but the next year it was in the mid-30s C. Tasmania is more ridiculous (from 38C to snow in 5 days in January, and that’s just what I – as a visitor – have experienced)… but the idea of confidently predicting snow, in December? Uh, no.
Anyway, this is understandably intriguing, but less understandably hasn’t been closely reported on. Until now, when Lief is forced to go home for Christmas with a far-too-bubbly camerawoman in tow. Matilda doesn’t like visitors: there are far too many secrets that need to be kept. And when there’s not one but a whole truckload of strangers, and then weird things start happening – like earthquakes – clearly things are going to get real.
This is a very fun, and very enjoyable, and very intriguing, novella. It’s written in that Tansy style that means there’s a lot of banter and snark, some surprising description that really works, and at a brisk pace that means there’s no time for dawdling HURRY UP. Thoroughly enjoyable, and not just a Christmastime read.
So today really felt like winter – which does officially start tomorrow, so I guess that’s fair enough. So, in an effort to at least look a bit cheery, I wore my lovely bright red jumper to school. It’s very nice and warm… and I haven’t worn it (naturally enough) since we got home from the UK. It still has little bits of fluff on it from wearing it underneath my puffy jacket when we were over there.
All of this, also naturally enough, made me think about our trip. It feels like such a long time ago – only January! – and sometimes I still can’t believe we actually went. When I am over the next couple of weeks (report writing, NatCon (woohoo!), more report writing…) I really will blog more about The Trip. For now, just let me sketch Christmas, which is something we’ve had occasion to talk about a bit recently.
So we must have got up at sunrise – like about 8.30 or so (actually I’m sure it was earlier than that, but you get the picture), and I think we had toast or such like. We were staying with J’s cousins, and once their daughter and her boyfriend had arrived we opened presents. They were so generous to us – we got genuine Sheffield silver spoons, and chocolate enough that basically lasted the next four weeks, and I got a really nice pashmina. Anyway, all of this brought us to late morning, at which point we all piled into two cars and went to the cousin’s brother’s place. There, there was the other side of the family (J’s cousins, who are brothers, married sisters…) – we drank champers, darling, and ate nibblies. For an hour or two. Then it was back into the car and back to where we were staying. This bit I remember exceptionall well, because it was probably a 15 or 20 min trip during which I was balancing an entire turkey, in a foil tray, in my hands. It was at least 5kg, and because there were thre large adults in the back seat, it didn’t actually fit on my knees. So I balanced it with my arms underneath, hands on the sides, trying to watch the corners so as not to spill juices everywhere (I lost it once, and poured some on Matt – the cousin’s son (who is our age… the cousin mentioned earlier is actually J’s dad’s cousin… confused yet?) – who kindly forgave me). When we finally got back, and the turkey was taken out of my arms, I cramped. And my arms continued to ache for the next 48 hours or so.
We finally sat down to eat a real meal at about 3.30 or so. There was turkey, and ham, and lots of salads, and vegies, and sauces… and French red wine… it was incredible. We had bonbons – nice ones. After sitting a little, we had dessert – there was Christmas pud, but also a chocolate cake, because it was someone’s birthday, and it was brilliant. Complementing that was one of the nicest dessert wines I have ever tastes: from Samos. Bet you can’t buy it here.
And then, because that’s not enough for one day, we played charades (pronounced sharaaaads…). Competitively.
It was one of the most amazing days ever. Certainly one of the most memorable Christmas days I’ve ever had – it was just so different. And that was our third day.